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Kyle Ferguson
Kyle Ferguson
Articles (522)  | Author's Website |

'Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX and the Quest for a Fantastic Future'

3 qualities I learned about Musk from Ashlee Vance's book

July 13, 2016 | About:

"Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX and the Quest for a Fantastic Future" informed me of three qualities that Musk possesses that are beneficial to any investor or entrepreneur.

The book tells the story of South African-born Elon Musk's trials and tribulations that he encountered on his way to founding PayPal (NASDAQ:PYPL) and SpaceX and how he took Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) from being nearly broke to having the Tesla Model S win Motor Trend's car of the year.

He's relentless

Musk does everything that he can to get the most from himself and his employees. Musk works seven days per week, and when Tesla was faces tremendous adversity, he uses it to his advantage to motivate his employees. Author Ashlee Vance reported that one of Tesla's prototype engineers, Dave Lyons, witnessed the following:

“Musk spit coffee across a conference room table because it was cold and then, without a pause, demand that the employees work harder, do more and mess up less. Like so many people privy to these performances, Lyons came away with no illusions about Musk’s personality but with the utmost respect for his vision and drive to execute.”

Throughout the book Vance listed multiple examples of Musk’s relentless work ethic and his leadership. At one point in 2008 Musk was nearly broke, managing both SpaceX and Tesla. Vance reported this observation from Antonio Gracias, the founder and CEO of Valor Equity.

“He has the ability to work harder and endure more stress than anyone I’ve ever met,” Gracias said. “What he went through in 2008 would have broken anyone else. He didn’t just survive. He kept working and stayed focused.”

Musk faced tremendous adversity with SpaceX and Tesla during 2008; at the same time he was juggling a divorce with his now ex-wife at the time. I have read about many people throughout history who could endure pain, but I have never read about any CEO or entrepreneur enduring the pain and adversity Musk has.

“Most oeople who are under that sort of pressure fray,” Gracias said. “Their decisions go bad. Elon gets hyper rational. He’s still able to make very clear, long-term decisions. The harder it gets, the better he gets. Anyone who saw what he went through firsthand came away with more respect for the guy. I’ve just never seen anything like his ability to take pain.”

He is fearless when he takes risks

After PayPal was sold to eBay (NASDAQ:EBAY) for $1.5 billion in 2002, Musk could have retired after he netted $165 million. But Musk is determined have a lasting positive impact on the world, and he reinvested his capital in three companies  SpaceX, Tesla and SolarCity (NASDAQ:SCTY).

As the largest shareholder in PayPal, Musk became fantastically well-to-do when eBay acquired the company for $1.5 billion in 2002. Instead of hanging around Silicon Valley and falling into the same funk as his peers, however, Musk decamped to Los Angeles. The conventional wisdom of the time said to take a deep breath and wait for the next big thing to arrive in due course. Musk rejected that logic by throwing $100 million into SpaceX, $70 million into Tesla and $10 million into SolarCity. Short of building an actual money-crushing machine, Musk could not have picked a faster way to destroy his fortune. He became a one-man, ultrarisk- taking venture capital shop and doubled down on making super-complex physical goods in two of the most expensive places in the world, Los Angeles and Silicon Valley.

I admire Musk’s courage and determination in his attempt to make the world a better place by significantly reducing the need for fossil fuels through Tesla and SolarCity. His mammoth goal for interplanetary life in the universe is also something that is truly amazing.

Musk is very studious and loves to read

Early on in the book, Elon’s brother Kimbal Musk, talked about his brother's thirst for reading and knowledge. He said, “From a very young age, he seemed to have a book in his hands at all times.” As Elon grew older, he would take himself to the bookstore after school, which ended at 2 p.m., and he would stay there until about 6 p.m., prior to his parents coming home from work. Musk’s interest in reading at a young age was an important skill he used to his advantage later in life.

Through his ability to read and learn at such a rapid pace, Musk studied how to build rockets during his youth. South Africa did not have the Estes rocket kits that were popular and easy to use by hobbyists throughout the world. Instead, Musk created his own chemical compounds and put them inside of canisters.

Later in his life, Musk was still learning everything he could about rockets.

Kevin Hartz, an early PayPal investor, was quoted in the book:

“We’re all hanging out in this cabana at the Hard Rock Cafe, and Elon is there reading some obscure Soviet rocket manual that was all moldy and looked like it had been bought on eBay.”

Musk was able to teach himself enough about building rockets, and he eventually gained enough confidence to found SpaceX in 2002 with the primary goal of revolutionizing space technology, ultimately enabling people to live on other planets. SpaceX went through multiple trials and tribulations in its attempt to successfully launch a rocket into outer space. The company was nearly bankrupt before achieving success after many failures. SpaceX was able to launch a deal with NASA for $1.6 billion, which was surprising for SpaceX and its employees because of their numerous setbacks.

“On Dec. 23, 2008, however, SpaceX received a shock. People inside NASA had backed SpaceX to become a supplier for the ISS. The company received $1.6 billion as payment for 12 flights to the space station.”

The trials and tribulations that Elon Musk faced as an entreprenuer starting multiple businesses is incredible. In the book Vance writes how Musk's leadership was essential in founding and investing in PayPal, Tesla, SpaceX and SolarCity. The book shows the importance of being relentless, rational and courageous while enduring tremendous pain. There are many more life lessons in the book about one of the most innovative people of the 21st century.

“I would like to die thinking that humanity has a bright future,” he said. “If we can solve sustainable energy and be well on our way to becoming a multiplanetary species with a self-sustaining civilization on another planet — to cope with a worst-case scenario happening and extinguishing human consciousness — then,” and here he paused for a moment, “I think that would be really good.”

Cheers to your investment success.

Disclosure: Author does not own any shares of the stocks mentioned in this article.

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About the author:

Kyle Ferguson
Kyle Ferguson is an investor, author of The Christian Bubble, and he is a world-renowned human and animal rights activist, and the co-founder of The Light Movement. He is outspoken, fearless, and relentless. Kyle lives in Ontario, Canada and he is dedicated to making the world a better place with love and light.

Visit Kyle Ferguson's Website


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